The sound reverberated in my head as I walked. Billy Joel sang the lyrics to We Didn't Start the Fire. For the first time, I also deciphered the closing words. "We didn't start the fire, but we're fighting it." With that background, I finished my daily hike and went to my computer and the television where I watched the ominous climb of the price of crude oil rise and rise.
When the markets closed, the price of oil had set unheard of records with predictions of $150 per barrel crude oil by July 4, 2004. Finally the world was paying attention to the problem that so many of us have seen coming for a long time.
Why did this happen? Who do we blame? The "why" is not hard to answer; a finite resource has met an increasing population with increasing demands for energy. Energy derived primarily from oil. The "who" is even easier to answer. We need only walk over to our mirror and look. We must blame ourselves.
I remember my parents. Both my mother and my father were products of the great depression. They worked hard and had a nice home in the latter part of their lives. Somehow, they did not endorse the manner in which I spent my money. I was affronted that they did not share my ability to buy a new car, live in a nice home, and have as high a standard of living as theirs at a comparatively much earlier stage of life.
Now I understand why my parents constantly lectured on the value of frugality and of maintaining a constant vigil against waste of all of our resources. I still remember the constant reminders to turn off the lights when leaving a room. I still remember the "hand me down" clothing from older siblings who had outgrown them.
At this difficult time (and it will be difficult) in the history of our world, I think we take a page from the story of those who came before us. We turn to life in a simpler time. We conserve. We enter into a relationship of community with our neighbors. Only in this way can we preserve a social fabric in which we and our nation survive in a world that faces a truly dark time. My prediction is that hope will prevail. The things that change will enrich our lives not detract from them.
Some day in the future (and we hope it is soon) more efficient ways of utilizing the energy of the sun, the wind, and perhaps gravity itself will present humankind with the possibility of continued survival in an era of co-operation. The only way to stop the fire is to fight it and fight it we must.